Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why America Needs to Legalize Marijuana

            Now, more than ever, the United States of America is in need of reform. Our economy is stalling out. We are becoming aware of our negative impact on the dwindling environment. Our Health Care system is one of the worst in the world. The American people are crying out for an innovative new industry that would create jobs, revitalize the economy, reestablish a balance with nature, and replace the archaic, destructive, outdated, and underperforming industries that got us into this mess to begin with. It seems like the only thing that can save us from our inevitable collapse would be some sort of superman; but what about a super-plant? What if there was a plant that could do all of those things and more, a plant that could turn our country back around onto the right track economically, environmentally, and morally. The problem is the only plant that can do all that is the notoriously illegal Marijuana. 

            Marijuana was one of the first plants to be cultivated by human beings as early as 8000 B.C.. Since then we have utilized it for countless applications from food, to medicine, and fibers. According to a 2007 CRS report for Congress Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity “Hemp fiber is amenable to use in a wide range of products including carpeting, home furnishings, construction materials, auto parts, textiles, and paper. Hemp seed, an oilseed, likewise has many uses, including industrial oils, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and food.” The 1938 Popular Mechanics article Billion Dollar Crop suggests that “Hemp is the standard fiber of the world. It has great tensile strength and durability. It is used to produce more than 5,000 textile products, ranging from rope to fine laces, and the woody “hurds” remaining after the fiber has been removed contain more than seventy-seven percent cellulose, and can be used to produce more than 25,000 products, ranging from dynamite to cellophane."

            Historically this plant was not marred by the exaggerated and unfounded claims of today. George Washington wrote, in a note to his gardener at Mount Vernon in 1794, “Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!” (The Writings of Washington, Volume 33, Page270 Library of congress). It wasn't until the 1930's that Marijuana's reputation began to decline due to a propaganda smear campaign orchestrated by Harry J. Anslinger, Assistant Prohibition Commissioner of the Bureau of Prohibition. Because of Anslinger's outrageously false and blatantly racist claims and lobbying, Congress introduced the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This made it illegal to possess Marijuana without a special tax stamp to be delineated by Congress. Since none were released this was effectively the beginning of Marijuana prohibition.

            Coincidentally earlier that same year an article came out in Popular Science magazine called The Most Profitable and Desirable Crop That Can Be Grown. It described the invention of new machines that would make the production of marijuana more cost efficient and easier to produce. Because of these machines, marijuana could be produced for less money, using less labor than any other fibrous crop. 

            Today, our economy is in peril. Jobless rates are astronomical. Public funding is being cut everywhere. As a country we're in debt trillions of dollars. What we need to do is to stop outsourcing all of our labor and importing all of our goods. We need an industry that produces a versatile and ecologically friendly product with a large demand. Currently the bulk of the proceeds from the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry end up in the hands of foreign criminal organizations.

            If marijuana were legalized we would take that money out of the hands of the dangerous criminals that threaten our borders and put it into the hands of the underfunded public, in the form of tax revenue, jobs, local manufacturing opportunities, and a revitalization of current industries. In 2005 Harvard University Professor of economics, Jeffrey A. Miron published an extensive state by state report called The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition which determined that “legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $5.3 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $2.4 billion would accrue to the federal government" and that “marijuana legalization would yield tax revenue of $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like all other goods and $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco.” That amounts to a $13.9 billion gain from savings and tax revenue alone. These estimates don't take into account the hemp industry which would create jobs and provide new materials for current industries to improve.

            According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' (FAO) 2005 Global Forest Resources Assessment “the United States has the seventh highest rate of primary forest loss.” This rampant deforestation fuels the pulp paper and lumber industries. Not only could marijuana replace wood pulp as the preferred means of paper-making but it could replace many building materials. Some of the recent innovations that would significantly reduce pollution and the need for deforestation include biodegradable hemp plastics, hemp-crete (a hemp based concrete), and hemp insulation. Recently we have tried to introduce ethanol based fuels from corn which the government heavily subsidizes. The issue with this is that it takes more units of energy to turn corn into ethanol than the ethanol produces itself; making it a net energy loss that is made up for with coal produced electricity. The wise consumer is not fooled by this. Hemp-seed oil is naturally 10% ethanol and can be used as fuel with minimal processing. It might sound cliche' but a car can be run on marijuana. Henry Ford created a car that ran solely on hemp-seed oil and our technology has improved vastly since then.

Aside from the industrial benefits, marijuana has been used throughout history as medicine. Today it is prescribed by doctors for such things as relief from the side effects of chemotherapy, to reduce pressure around the eyes in glaucoma patients, and stimulating appetites in patients with eating disorders. According to the American Medical Association's Report 3 of the Council on Science and Public Health Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes, "smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis." Last week the Center For Medicinal Cannabis Research released their Report to the Legislature and Governor of the State of California which shows that “cannabis is a promising treatment in selected pain syndromes caused by injury or diseases of the nervous system, and possibly for painful muscle spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.” Beside the testimonials of patients and medical professionals that marijuana works better than the synthetic drugs, it is a superior medicine because it is not lethal.

            The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies drugs according to the severity with a Scheduling system. They qualify the schedules from I to V, I being the most illegal. They define schedule I as "(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse. (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. (C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision." According to the DEA Marijuana and Tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) are Schedule I drugs. This suggests that Marijuana and Tetrahydrocannabinol have no excepted medical uses, have a high potential for abuse, and are unsafe even with the supervision of a doctor. It's interesting that marijuana should have such a classification since it has a myriad of medical uses. As far as potential for abuse thousands of people go to rehab for drugs and alcohol; no one goes to rehab because of marijuana. Unlike drugs, alcohol, aspirin, various household cleaners, and a plethora of other dangerous items that everyone has easy excess to, marijuana cannot and has never in history killed anyone.

            There is no good reason to keep marijuana illegal or for it to have been criminalized in the first place. There is every reason to decriminalize, tax, and utilize the most multifaceted and profitable plant in the history of humanity. It is a cheaper, safer, cleaner, and more sustainable alternative to tens of thousands of products that we already utilize every day. It has many known medical benefits and more are constantly being discovered. Despite its nefarious reputation, it is in no way dangerous. It is far safer than our most common medicines. It is the solution to the economic, ecological, and medical problems plaguing our country. Legalizing marijuana is what is right for the environment. It is what is right for the economy. It's what's right for the American people.

1 comment:

  1. Nice pics! The section breaks are inconsistent, but otherwise this looks super.